On 28th January 2020, Singapore enacted the Singapore Payment Service Act (PSA), creating a legal framework to govern payment systems and Payment service providers. Payment Service providers, including exchanges and platforms dealing with cryptocurrencies or digital payment token providers, must obtain licenses from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to operate in Singapore.

The PSA will ensure that the FinTech industry, which is already well established in Singapore due to the favorable conditions, is streamlined.

Businesses categorized as payment services according to the PSA

According to the PSA, the following services are categorized as payment services:

  1. Account issuance services – These include businesses that offer services like issuance of payment accounts, or related to operations that required operating a payment account. This could include an e-wallet or a non-bank issued credit card.
  2. Domestic money transfer services – These include businesses that offer services that provide fund transfer services in Singapore. This could include payment kiosk or payment gateway services.
  3. Cross‑border money transfer services – These include businesses that offer services that provide for inbound and outbound fund transfer remittance services in Singapore.
  4. Merchant acquisition services – This applies where a service provider accepts and processes payment transactions for a merchant. This could include the operation of online payment gateways or the provision of point-of-sale terminals.
  5. E-money issuance services – These include businesses that offer services that allow for the issuance of e-money in Singapore so that users can pay merchants or transfer e-money to other individuals. Examples of e-money include money stored in e-wallets.
  6. Digital payment token services – These include businesses that offer services that provide for the buying or selling of digital payment tokens (e.g. cryptocurrencies), or provide a platform which facilitates the exchange of such digital payment tokens in Singapore.
  7. Money‑changing service – This applies to businesses that deal with the buying or selling of foreign currency notes in Singapore. This would include money changers that profit from the exchange of physical currency notes.

Licenses to apply for

To start a business that offers any of the above seven services, one must apply for one of the following licenses with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) depending on the scope of the business:

  1. Money-changing license – if the business intends to carry out money changing services only.
  2. Standard payment institution (SPI) license – if the business intends to offer payment services specified in the following thresholds (as stipulated under section 6 (5) of the Act):
      • Average monthly transactions of S$6m for two or more activity types
      • Average monthly transactions of S$3m for any activity type
      • Daily outstanding E-money float of S$5m
  1. Major payment institution license – if the business intends to offer payment services without being subject to the above-specified thresholds.

It is worth noting that even the already running businesses had to apply for new licenses or else be considered as operating illegally without any license and they can be charged with an offense.

Requirements for applying for a license

To apply for a PSI license, one must:

  1. Have a company registered in Singapore or overseas and have a permanent business place or registered office in Singapore.
  2. Have at least one executive director who is a permanent resident of Singapore or at least a Singapore citizen.
  3. Have at least one executive director who holds a Singapore Employment Pass.
  4. Have at least one non-executive director who is a permanent resident of Singapore or at least a Singapore citizen.
  5. Fulfill the prescribed operational and financial criteria.
  6. Have a minimum base capital of at least S$100,000.

In addition to the above-mentioned requirements, the MAS also takes into account other factors like the track record of the applicant, experience, qualifications, the ability to comply with the regulations under the PAS and also the financial condition of the applicant.

License application fee

All license applicants are required to pay a nonrefundable license application fee corresponding to the type of license they are applying for.

  1. Applying for a Money-Changing License costs S$500
  2. Applying for a Standard Payment Institution License costs S$1000 to S$5500 depending on the threshold.
  3. Applying for a Major Payment Institution License costs S$1500 to S$8000.

In addition to the application fee, the applicant must also be ready to pay an annual license fee plus other applicable fees depending on the chosen license.

Issues that can result in the cancelation of the license

License holders can lose their license if:

  • They do not start the stated business within 6 months upon receipt of the license.
  • They stop offering payment services for 6 months.
  • They do not make any payments within 6 months.
  • If the business no longer offers services related to the categories stated in the PSA.

PSA regulations governing controllers and directors of payment service providers

In addition to setting a new presence in Licensing of Payment services, the Payment Service Act (PSA) also sets some restrictions for the directors and controllers who intend to control at least 20% of the service provider businesses.

According to the PSA, a 20% controller in a service provider business is a single person or a person together with other associates that:

  • Owns at least 20% in shares of the company/businesses.
  • Can control at least 20% of the votes of the company/business.

However, to become a 20% controller of the company, the said individual must first apply with the MAS. Then, according to the guidelines of MAS, the authority can approve or reject the applications. Upon approval to become a 20% controller, the MAS may also impose other restrictions on the individual.

Reasons why MAS could refuse an application to become a 20% controller

  1. If the person has been earlier convicted of dishonesty and fraudulent offense in Singapore or elsewhere.
  2. If the person is declared bankrupt in Singapore or elsewhere.
  3. If there are complaints about the individual about unsettled debts.
  4. If the person has been a previous director of a financial institution that has been accused in court in Singapore or elsewhere and its license revoked.

Penalties for contravening the rules and restrictions on control over companies

PSA has set harsh penalties for individuals found contravening the rules set aside for the 20% controllers.

The penalties could include fines of between S$250 000 and S$25 000 per day or imprisonment for a term of up to 3 years for unlawful control of a payment service provider.

Need help with registering for a PSA license?

Gravitas International sister company, MT Chambers LLC, which is a leading Singaporean law firm with an international reach can assist you in the following:

  • Preparing and submitting a PSA license application to MAS to obtain the appropriate license to be allowed to operate in Singapore.
  • Drafting and/or updating current compliance policies and procedures, including AML/KYC procedures to meet new regulatory requirements.
  • Conducting ongoing compliance support that includes assisting with regulatory filings, conducting periodic monitoring and reviewing and amending internal controls.
  • Conducting an internal audit to review the Company’s preparedness to adhere to new PSA regulations.

The MT Chambers LLC is one of the 65 law firms that have been handpicked for a pilot phase program for the new Payment Services Act (PSA) known as the Singapore Academy of Law’s of Payment Regulatory Evaluation Program (PREP).

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